Sunday, January 10, 2010

Boycott the LA Fire Dept

Traffic plans will interfere with fire safety, by David Smith

The city of Encinitas must be held responsible and accountable for its plans to “improve,” or change, Coast Highway.

Our community has been unsuccessful in getting the city to agree to make the changes in a such a way that they will not negatively affect Fire Department access to our homes west of the highway.

This is a time-critical issue as the Encinitas City Council will be voting on the plan at its regular meeting Wednesday.

The plan, called “North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Project,” is an outline that will likely change Coast Highway in a way that not only will fail to meet, but will fall significantly below, Encinitas Fire Code specifications, Encinitas General Plan specifications and Encinitas Road Standards specifications.

These changes will certainly impede and delay the potential emergency response times to the community of about 1,000 homes west of Coast Highway between Encinitas Boulevard and La Costa Avenue and the three dedicated beach accesses in the area.

There are two options in consideration and up for City Council review on Wednesday.

One is “option 4A” and the other “option 5.” They both implement “traffic calming measures” that will significantly delay Fire Department response abilities.

The most drastic is option 4A. This option will incorporate multiple one-lane roundabouts that are below U.S. Department of Transportation size specifications for a four-lane major arterial right-of-way such as Coast Highway, and a complete elimination of a northbound lane for approximately two miles. The new planned northbound lane will have an overall improved width of 20 feet, curb to curb, with roundabout entrances at 16 feet.

Currently, the Encinitas Fire Department does not meet its response time goal of five minutes or less 80 percent of the time to the 1,000 homes in the area of the mentioned above.

According to records provided to me by Encinitas Fire Department, in the last three years it has met the response goal of five minutes or less only 45 percent of the time. Also, it cannot provide any precedent for a major arterial right-of-way like Coast Highway being changed as proposed in the leading options.

I have been employed by the Los Angeles Fire Department for the past 23 years as a firefighter/paramedic and a firefighter/engineer, and I have been driving fire engines and ambulances for the city of Los Angeles for the past 20 years. I have a firsthand working knowledge of how road design and traffic conditions can potentially delay response times, and how these potential delays can negatively affect the overall outcomes for people and property that need the service of a fire department.

Since April, we have made multiple attempts to contact and inform our City Council and city management of our concerns via letters, phone calls, community petitions, e-mails and attendance at council meetings and project workshops. We have received minimal to no response from the city.

What we would like see from the city is a serious response to our concerns and some investigation into what other municipalities have done to accommodate both walking paths and bike paths near railroad tracks, as has been done in San Clemente, instead of compromising a major arterial right-of-way like Coast Highway as the current plans will do.

Smith is an Encinitas resident.


  1. Who is the WE Mr. Smith is talking about in his article when he refers to attempting to contact the City and getting no response. Perhaps Mr. Smith can answer this.

  2. "According to records provided to me by Encinitas Fire Department, in the last three years it has met the response goal of five minutes or less only 45 percent of the time."

    So response time already sucks? How about charting the three years worth of responses and identify how many would have been impacted by any of the proposed changes in option 4A. Also, how many of the "slow" responses in Leucadia came from Station 1 vs. Station 3.

    Any responsible urban planning will include a serious consideration of how proposed changes would impact emergency response. However, it is only one factor, and, in my opinion, many others should be given a higher priority in determining which plan best serves the community.

  3. I also know that if a person calls from a cell phone, their call will take longer to get to the appropriate station so that the fire-trucks can get on the road. This is because so many people have different area codes on their cell phones that the call has to go to the main dispatcher first, and then the appropriate station can be called. If you ever have a fire or need to get the fire department, use a land line if possible. We learned this the hard way when we had a fire on our street in Cardiff some years ago. The station is up the hill within walking distance, but because no one knew about the cell phone problem we had a longer response time. Not the fire departments fault. So I am wondering whether Mr. Smith is factoring this into his article.

  4. Mr. Smith, is the city's fire response goal just for your neighborhood or for the entire city?

    I live in Olivenhain and know my response times aren't as good as yours, maybe we need more fire stations or fire engines to correct this current concern of yours.

    For the sake of response times, maybe we also need to eliminate all speed bumps or other traffic calming devices in order to give us better response times.

    I've been to LA and they have these types of streets within their/your own city, have you protested to them?

  5. These unfounded fears were brought up in Ja Jolla when their, very similar, streetscape plans were developed. Their fire dept offered their analysis, that satisfied the nathsayers. La Jolla has not had any of the dire problems that were predicted. Our emergency services have reviewed the plans in the streescape in Leucadia and the one lane going south and north presently and the existing round abouts on Leuc Blvd and Santa Fe and are not concerned that the emergency services will be or have been negatively influenced by the existing one lane north, existing round abouts or the designs in alternative 4a or 5.
    If these fears were justified, then cities all up and down the coast, LA and cities accross the country that have implimented or maintained these effecient traffic calming methods would be experiencing dangerous conditions because of this.
    Well, they are not.


  6. Just what I want, someone from LA telling me how my community is supposed to be...
    Mr.Smith just because LA sucks doesn't mean Leucadia should, I support 4A.

  7. It appears that Mr. Smith should move to LA so he can safely sleep at night.

  8. Mr Smith,

    How about the safty and the mutiple DEATHS! attributed to the high speeds of a dysfunctional road?

    The best way to lower the speeds and increase the safty is option 4a.

    That is why the Fire chief of Encinitas and all the saty personel in Encinitas support it.

    They are friggen tired of responding to high speed accidents on 101 where someone goes to the hospital via lifeflight or worse the grave because of high speed.

    You have contacted EVERYONE at the city you liar, you just have not got the answer you want.

    The trus story is this guy lives off of El Portal and does not want any of you normal foalk coming to the area and messing up his traffic.

    He apperantly has no problems messing up other peoples traffic as he drife all the way to LA to go to work.

    keep it local, and keep it slow for safety's sake.

    Mr. Smith, do us a favor and reduce traffic by living closer to where you work.

  9. LA needs to drug test their fire fighters obvoiusly. Now they think they are City Planners and traffic Engineers and Know more about well balanced holistic Community Saftey and emergency response than a Chief that oversees Encinitas, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar.

    I will take the vibe and vision of well balance roads for overall safety and quality of life our coastal cities over LA safety environment any day.

    I agree with the other poster. Do everyone a favor and move closer to you work. You fit more in LA than Leucadia.

  10. When measuring how nice a place is the quality of the residents is way more important than the flowers in the medians.

    What happened to the progressives open minded and tolerant values? What happened to allowing someone to have an opinion?

    The fear and hatred by anon commenter is lame.

    It is funny that Smith probably puts in less commuting miles than most of you bloggers. Smith is a fire fighter and probably works 3 day shifts and maybe commutes once a week. Maybe he takes the metrolink or drives on off peak hours and gets optimum gas mileage.

  11. Encinitas city staff have proven that their evaluations are meaningless.

  12. We love our Fire Department! Mr. Smith needs to go to Washington, Sacramento, LA, and solve the real problems of the country. Leave Leucadia alone.

  13. Firemen get paid way, way, way too much here.

    Heck, I'd rather we have a volunteer fire department and spend the money on library books and teachers!

  14. "When measuring how nice a place is the quality of the residents is way more important than the flowers in the medians."

    Unfortunately, the barren medians, unsafe bike routes, dismal sidewalks and dark business district do reflect on the people that live here; residents and businesses alike. That's why we want that to change for the better.

  15. Change for the better does not have to include roundabouts. We do not need roundabouts to plant more trees or landscaping. Traffic can be slowed down by police enforcement instead of deadly roundabouts. Two southbound lanes plus the bike lane merging into one narrow roundabout lane, who's the Einstein who thought that one up, good chance he's on medical marijuana.
    There are a hundred reasons or more why roundabouts are bad for Leucadia, but only poor excuses for them.

  16. 753 sez: "There are a hundred reasons or more why roundabouts are bad for Leucadia, but only poor excuses for them."

    I think this is what is commonly referred to as a hasty generalization. The only reason I can think of for not installing the much safer roundabouts is cost. But virtually all other "reasons" are not supported by the facts.

    And while street lights and landscaping alone would make for a significant improvement, roundabouts would be the safest and most effective way to move people, bicyclists and automobiles through this area.

    The Council has demonstrated their foresight and wisdom on roundabouts in the past, with decisions to install them on Santa Fe Drive and Leucadia Boulevard. Let's hope they continue to lead in the county by voting Wednesday for Option 4A.

  17. To 753

    As usual, you show that you do not understand that if we do not have the more efficient and safer round abouts and one lane north in certain areas of 101 north, we will have: Less trees
    Less bike lanes
    Higher speeds
    Less sidewalks
    Less parking
    More bypass traffic in
    our neighborhoods
    Is this what YOU want?
    4a is obviously a better alternative.


  18. Fred,

    Are you advocating that Leucadia gets a boob job?

    It will be the same intolerant people living here even if it looks like La Jolla.

  19. I know Dave Smith he is an outstanding fireman and paramedic. He works for a city that does REAL firefighting and is one of most progressive and busiest fire departments in the country. Everyone that mocks him in this blog owes him an apology. You should be thanking him for the job he does and his commitment to serving the public.

    Its people like him that call the city on misconduct and incompetence that help the city grow.

    You people are missing the point.
    The main issue here is altering the fire code. That is a major mistake and an act of gross negligence on behalf of the fire chief. It puts people’s lives in danger. Reducing the minimum standards is something that is rare and is seldom done in this state. Minimum standards are there for a reason. The consequences of reducing minimum standards are too great. The chief is gambling that nothing will happen in this sleepy little city. He need’s to be called out.

    Thanks Dave

  20. THe chief is a slob. Have you ever seen this guy? I bet he has a pb&j sandwich in his pocket to match the jelly stains on his shirt. Don't stand directly in front of him cuz when his belt blows his buckle could take you out!

  21. Actually Steve, you are missing the point. The response time of under five minutes is a GOAL, not part of the Fire Code. And the fact that traffic in this city generally sucks makes meeting that goal almost impossible, as evidenced by the statistics Mr. Smith cites.

    I don't "know" Mr. Smith, but I've been at several public sessions with him and know that he doesn't care for roundabouts. No matter how many facts are presented to him to demonstrate the many ways that roundabouts are safer for drivers and pedestrians, he always comes back to his position that it slows response times for emergency vehicles. And while I agree that emergency response is important, I disagree that it should be paramount. But it's one of the only arguments the roundabout haters have, so he's sticking with it. And while being an LA Fireman gives him some credibility with me, clearly it doesn't with many of the other commenters here.

  22. Steve, Dave might be a great guy, but we want an efficient and safe roadway. There are no problems with the existing one lanes along 101 all up and down the coast.
    to claim that 101with round abouts will be GRIDLOCK is Bullshit. And he who states that, to undermind plans that the community has spent almost two years refining, is not a friend of Leucadia and is just like those who spread the other scare tactics in the past and is a bullshitter.
    Support 4a.

  23. Dave may be a great guy, but he's full of shit about roundabouts causing delays for firetrucks. I have seen the City's longest hook and ladder cruise through the roundabouts at over 20 mph, thats much faster than they cruise through the signals and all way stops. At those gridlock points the fire trucks always need to slow to a crawl.

    Steve- Why should we thank Dave for being an LA fire fighter. I heard they make bank with outrageous pensions.... like they get to retire after 30 years at their highest paid year forever. Maybe Dave should be thanking the Citizens of LA.

    Personally, I wish LA would burn to the ground. That City including their streets were developed ass backwards. What a huge mistake. We can do much better.

    Get a grip Steve. Your losing it.

  24. I don't want Highway 101 to be more like LA. I suggest LA Firefighter move to LA!

    Support 4A!

  25. I still wonder who the WE is Smith is speaking of? I really dislike it when people publish commentaries and then won't even answer legitimate questions asked. All I can say is if you want to hear wha the fire dept. of Encinitas, not Los Angeles, has to say about this, go to the meeting on the 13th. I do believe that all of your questions will be answered about this.

  26. Dr.Lorri- The same people that oppose something nice for Leucadia, oppose something nice for Cardiff.

    Support 4A.

  27. They naysayer motto is keep it crappy, so my rent stays as low as possible.

  28. Cardiffinas are still waiting for the Cardiff Specific Plan to be approved. We have waited too. 4A is fine with me if that is what most Leucadians want. Not that I have any control over what gets passed. I sure would like to see a Cardiff Specific Plan get as much press. But I have to admit, I am too lazy or busy, whatever, to start a Cardiff blog, so J.P. is the Man on this one. Good luck on Weds. I really hope Council gives you the best possible outcome. Leucadia rocks.

  29. Thanks Dr. Lorri-

    I like your style. I hope we have positive outcome as well. We shall see.



  30. Cardiff by the Slough
    Support any plan that does not include roundabouts.

  31. Ah the infamous roundabout haters. If they could only figure out what yield means they would find more joy in their lives.

    Heres a hint:

    go when its safe to go and no cars are approaching (in a roundabout that would be from the left. Duh!)

    I am an infamous Signal Hater. I hate waiting at a redlight wasting time in my life when the coast is clear.

    In a nutshell, roundabout give more quality time in ones life.



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